The world’s best-selling, most controversial book will soon have its own museum in Washington, DC. The Museum of the Bible, set to open on 17 November, 2017, in a $509 million, 430,000 square-foot building just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, will be one of the world’s most technologically advanced museums.
“Every exhibit has something interactive,” said Dr. Tony Zeiss, the museum’s executive director. “We want to entertain people and get them engaged. We want visitors to have the most extraordinary experience they’ve ever had in a museum.”
From the start, it is clear that this museum is unusual. You enter through the Gutenberg Gates, massive bronze doors displaying the first 80 lines of Genesis. From there, eight floors delve into the history, narrative and impact of the Bible, showcasing the world’s largest private collection of original texts and artifacts including portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 14th-century illuminated manuscripts and Bibles used by Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley.
A section of the Vatican Library has been replicated, complete with artifacts on loan; as well as an Israel Antiquities Authority gallery displaying more ancient pieces. In addition, a rooftop garden grows biblical plants, a motion ride sprays water at you and the restaurant offers Israeli street food. Temporary exhibit space, a state-of-the-art performing arts hall using indoor 3D mapping, and a ballroom with lecture-style seating for 1000 are all part of the package.
But it’s the cutting-edge technology that’s most awaited. Handheld navigational devices provide customized guided tours based on time and interest. The entrance hall ceiling with thousands of LED lights reflects ever-changing biblical scenes. Walk-through digital re-creations of the ancient world come to life – including a first-century rendition of a Galilee village. An exhibit called Washington Revelation is a 4D aerial virtual journey around the nation’s capital in search of biblical text, complete with blowing wind, splashing water from the Potomac, and the scent of blooming cherry blossoms.
The museum’s mission is to enable all people – religious or not – to engage with the Bible. Yet some have wondered if that goal can be achieved when the museum is chaired and largely funded by the socially conservative owners of Hobby Lobby. Surprisingly, their evangelical values seem to have had little influence on the museum’s portrayal of the Bible. Already, the Washington Post has reported that it contains ‘very little Jesus.’